The concept of mind we're all familiar with is fast becoming the mind of the past. The decision maker, the seat of knowledge, the repository of hunches, innovation, emotions, judgment, memory, opinions, stubborn will, and so on is actually a rather narrow concept we're finding out. Human mind 1.0.
Evidence continues to mount that the mind is also the main factor regarding the body's health and longevity. "What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?" asked the New York Times Magazine recently, in which Harvard professor of psychology Ellen Langer commented on how a slew of experiments and research in this field have convinced her of the dominating influence of the human mind on the body. "If current day physics can't explain these things, maybe there are changes that need to be made in physics."
The concept that the human mind influences the body and that our nature is a grab bag of good and bad emotions and beliefs, some of which are detrimental to health, is actually an ancient one. What's gaining wider acceptance today is the degree to which the body is the servant of the mind. Mind, rather than matter, is gradually being acknowledged as the chief regulator of the human system. Human mind 2.0?
This concept of the broader realm of mind raises additional questions that need answers. Which mental qualities will produce and sustain health? Can we eliminate ones that don't, and if so, how? If health-producing mental qualities aren't the product of brain chemistry, where do they come from? Is there a source we have yet to understand? Of course there are plenty of other questions.
Like everyone, I'd love to have the answer to all of them. But I don't believe you need to fully understand everything about any concept in order to start exploring and taking advantage of its full potential. News stories on research and tests being conducted throughout the world suggest there's a good deal of that going on, and it's about time.
The most promising concept of mind would be one that's less rooted in a vulnerable human nature and instead embraces a diviner nature (one that's purely good and loving). When I say most promising I mean that it's persuasive because it positively and directly affects one's life. Greater confidence. Better health. Sounder relationships. Contributing to the larger good of society. This isn't the same as big data and meta-analysis, obviously, but it is evidence to be taken seriously.
A truly marvelous aspect of having a diviner conception of life and the positive experiences that come with it is that it's not a miraculous or unnatural feat. It doesn't require some religious ritual, summoning up a divine Mind, but rather it's as hands on as assimilating more of the goodness and compassion that we intuitively feel belong in our lives, and that would naturally emanate from a Mind that is solely good and with us wherever we are.
To do this assimilating takes humility, and every effort to stay on track with it. Nothing surprising there. Expecting much to change by merely putting on a spiritual veneer or looking for effortless short-cuts would end up a disappointment
This is about consistently taking advantage of a relationship where there's always been an open door -- a constant, close, and natural relationship with the eternal and Divine. While that may be a new idea for some, it isn't a new relationship.
Those who have taken advantage of this relationship have found that the more one fully embraces a diviner concept of life, the negative thoughts and experiences -- the loneliness, anger, suffering, fear, or failure associated with the up-and-down swings of human nature -- begin to lose their grip. Thought by thought, anger is neutralized by peace, fear by confidence, successes and achievements overtake failures. This doesn't happen all at once I've found, and it takes discipline, but transformation can happen. Thoughts, natures, and concepts gradually can change.
What's unchanging is the divine nature. Love remains just that -- Love itself - the source of tenderness, compassion, an all-embracing affection. Good is expressed and is expressible as unselfishness or a willingness to help others. Peace is seen in the peacemaker that we are, or that we encounter. None of these permanent spiritual qualities are lost, or far off, even if the human mind's misconception of the surface of things (informed by the physical senses) claims it sees no such thing.
The divine nature is always here, and with such reliability that we can think of it in terms of law -- divine law. There's no place or condition where these uplifting and sustaining qualities aren't as close as anything can be, and available to help, forever. Prayer has uncovered that fact to the humble hearts who have yearned to experience it for themselves.
The New York Times Magazine piece and hundreds of others like it remind us of those mind researchers and pioneers who devote themselves to probing, testing and asking big questions about the human mind, including its relation to longevity, to health, even to physics. They're engaged in a remarkable exploration and taking us along for the ride, which is to be commended.
They're also beginning to confront what may turn out to be the biggest question of all: As far as we've come, are we bumping into the limits inherent in our present concept of mind -- is there something above and beyond the human mind that perpetually promotes health and longevity?
This is where opinions, convention, and even physics take a back seat to the answer that emerges from personal experience.
Originally published on Psychology Today.